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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

File Compatibility Between Mac & Windows

A friend of mine recently asked me if Microsoft Word and PDF files could be opened on a Mac. The answer is YES. I've actually talked about this before in a previous entry, but perhaps I should discuss it further. I do find that one of the most common MISCONCEPTIONS about the Mac system is that it CANNOT open any of the files that you use on a Windows PC. Perhaps this was the case in the past, but not anymore. A lot of file types out there are accessible by both a Mac and Windows computer. As a general rule, if you have an application on your Mac or Windows computer that opens a particular file type, then chances are, you can open the same file of that type regardless of which platform you are working on. If you have Microsoft Office for Mac, then it will be able to open, access and modify a Word, PowerPoint or Excel file that you created using a Windows PC and vice versa. There is also an Adobe Acrobat Reader version for the Mac, so the same can be said about PDF files – you will be able to access them on a Mac even if it was created using a Windows PC. So, as I've mentioned earlier, if the same software application has a version for the Mac, then it is most likely that you will be able to open files that run on that application even if you created them on a Windows platform. And if your Mac has a particular piece of software that opens a particular file type, then it can probably open a file of that same type even if it was created on a Windows PC (e.g. Preview for photos and iTunes for music files). Here's a list of some of the more common file types that will run on both a Mac and Windows PC:

Pictures: Jpeg, Tiff, Gif, Png
Audio: Mp3, Wav
Video: MPEG, DivX (you will need to download the codec from the DivX website), Windows Media Movie (download Windows Media Player for Mac), QuickTime
Others: Microsoft Word, Excel & PowerPoint documents, SWF & FLA files from Macromedia Flash, PSD files from Adobe Photoshop, PDF files

Popular Instant Messaging programs will also allow Mac and Windows users to communicate with each other, such as Yahoo (audio conferencing DOESN'T work between Windows and Mac users, but webcam chat DOES), Skype (audio conferencing WORKS) and MSN.

*Note: Some of the file types and applications mentioned might not be compatible with OLDER versions of the Mac OS starting from OS X 10.1.5

For other software programs, files and applications that do not have Mac versions, you can use an emulator like Virtual PC for Mac. This application will allow you to access files, applications, networks and devices that are designed for Windows, all from the comfort of your own Mac. It literally creates a window for Windows. Some applications may not work, but overall compatibility is said to be impressive. Also, don't expect applications on your Virtual PC to run as fast as your other Mac programs. The emulation process will most likely create some lag time.

So, if you're considering making the switch, it is important for you to find out if most of the files and applications that you need to use on a daily basis will work on a Mac. It's easy to get tempted by the Mac's gorgeous exterior, but you still have to be objective when you make your decision. Here's an interesting article that talks about why a Mac isn't for everybody. I'd have to say that I agree with some of the points raised by the author. Read the article to see if what he says makes good sense to you. But even though I agree that the Mac may not be for everybody, I still think that it's an excellent choice for a lot of people out there.

UPDATE [20-Jan-2006]:

#1: Here's one question that a lot of people might be wondering about:

Can I use the Windows installer of a certain software application so I can install that applicaton on my Mac (without using Virtual PC)?

The answer would be NO. For instance, if you have a Microsoft Office installer for Windows, you will not be able to use that installer to run Microsoft Office for your Mac. You will have to purchase a separate Microsoft Office installer made specifically for the Mac. The same goes for all other software application installers - you will need to purchase or acquire the specific version for Macintosh.

#2: I found a resource page that talks about Microsoft Office cross-platform compatibility between Mac and Windows. Go to the Compatibility Center at the Microsoft website to read more.
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